Identifying & Controlling Ants in Southern California

Identifying Common Ants in Southern California

Property owners may not feel as uncomfortable with a few ants in the home or office as they would with a cockroach infestation or house centipedes crawling around, but it is advisable to try to remove them before their numbers grow.

Ants can arrive without warning and cause several problems both in and around your home. These pests are small, fast, and breed quickly, making them a challenge to locate and difficult to control.

Southern California is home to only a small percentage of the over 12,000 species of ants that exist around the world. Despite this, those that do live in our area can cause a lot of destruction and frustration for home and business owners.

Some of the most problematic ants include:

Argentine AntArgentine ants (Linepithema humile, formerly Iridomyrmex humilis) – The Argentine ant is an invader species originating in South America and introduced to the United States through human activity. These ants breed prolifically and due to this, have decimated and displaced some populations of native ant species in southern California, such as the once-common Odorous House Ant.

Argentine ants can squeeze through openings as small as 1 millimeter (0.04”) and invade homes and businesses during the hot, dry summer and fall seasons when water resources outside become low. They also will invade a structure when their nests are flooded during heavy rains, quickly over-running your home or place of business.

Another concern about Argentine ants is their cultivation of aphids to collect the honeydew and other sweet secretions from these and similar insects. With such aggressive protection from natural predators, the aphids continue to cause damage to vegetation in yards and gardens.

Argentine ants are counted among the world’s 100 worst animal invaders. Unlike most other ants, Argentine ants very rarely attack other Argentine ants or their nests, allowing for incredibly high levels of social organization and the rapid formation of new nests and colonies.

Black Carpenter AntCarpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) – The black carpenter ant becomes a problem for Inland Empire homeowners when there is wet, decaying wood around their property. This can encourage an infestation of your home and eventually result in major damage to your home’s structure.

While these large, predatory ants don’t actually feed on wood as termites do, they make their nests in wooden structures and will carve long tunnels throughout, until the affected area is essentially hollow. These extensive tunnels affect the overall stability of the structure.

Like Argentine ants, carpenter ants also farm and protect aphids and other honeydew-producing insects such as tree hoppers, allowing them to further infest your garden and cause harm to plants.

Indoor colonies of carpenter ants always build their nests in areas with very high humidity, such as subfloors, decks or porches, around window and door frames, and under roof eaves.

You can identify the presence of black carpenter ants by the piles of frass (sawdust-like material) and body parts of insect prey near their nest sites.

Pharaoh AntPharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) – Pharaoh ants are small ants (2mm) that prefer places where they can find an abundance of food. Sweets, fats, and proteins all appeal to this crawling nuisance. The pharaoh ant is as much a problem to commercial buildings as it is to residential homes.

The tiny, destructive pharaoh ant is considered a serious indoor pest and is notoriously difficult to eradicate completely.

Because they can transmit diseases such as salmonella and dysentery and bring contamination to sterile environments, Pharaoh ants are especially noisome in hospitals and medical facilities.

Pharaoh ants definitely have a sweet tooth! They are attracted to sweet treats and liquids, sugary protein sources such as peanut butter, greases, dead bugs and insects. While placing baits that contain sweet proteins and greases can attract these ants, baits typically have little effect on an established colony.

Because pharaoh ants are considered among the most difficult to eradicate, you’ll have better results by hiring an ant control specialist, rather than attempting to use baits and poison sprays that rarely work against these wee invaders.

Fire ants – There are two species of fire ant in the southern California area: the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the Southern fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni).

Southern California Fire Ant

The fire ant is a resilient and intimidating pest, with the Red Imported Fire Ant (or RIFA) of the most concern.

RIFAs are very aggressive, with stings that result in excruciating pain, development of fluid-filled pustules that can lead to infections and scarring, and in some cases, their stings can result in medical emergencies such as anaphylactic shock.

If disturbed, these tiny insects will pour from a nest by the thousands, biting and stinging anything in their path. Children, pets, and livestock are the most at risk. And, like other Inland Empire ants, fire ants carry parasites, pathogens, nematodes, and viruses.

The annual cost of fire ant damage in the US is in the billions and also includes significant impacts on native wildlife in southern California. Fire ants build nests under pavement and foundations, resulting in breakage and collapse. They also destroy infrastructure, machinery and equipment, and their large nests reduce property values.

In the realms of agriculture and animal husbandry, fire ants ravage crops and farm machinery, ruin stock pastures, and their large nest mounds can prevent harvest machinery from working properly.

Fire ants are dangerous and difficult to eradicate. Speak to your pest control technician about our fire ant eradication methods. We deliver specialized, legally compliant methods for treating all species of fire ants in the Inland Empire.

Effective Ant Prevention Tips

There are steps home and business owners can take to help reduce the likelihood of an ant infestation:

• Ants follow pheromone trails–destroy the trails by wiping with any glass cleaner that contains ammonia

• Repair water leaks from hoses or outside plumbing

• Ensure appropriate water drainage around the home

• Eliminate standing water sources around the home

• Seal up all cracks and apply caulk around doors and windows.

• Trim all vegetation so it does not touch the home and remove any yard debris.

• Always enclose food in sealed containers, empty garbage cans often

• Clean up dirty dishes and wipe food preparation surfaces

• Dispose of grease and food waste in appropriate containers

• Remove infested indoor plants

• Baits can be helpful, but professional help is needed for serious infestations

Have Ants Invaded Your Home or Business?

No matter the type of ant infestation, our licensed and bonded pest control team is ready to help you!

Contact us today for a complimentary inspection and quote on ant extermination services. Craig & Sons Termite & Pest Control Inc serves the Riverside and San Bernardino county areas.


“Argentine Ant” by Pedro Moura Pinheiro is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

“Carpenter Ant (Camponotus sp.)” by sankax is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

“Makunda Insects-5128 – Monomorium pharaonis” by Vijay Anand Ismavel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Profile view of ant Solenopsis xyloni specimen casent0005806 via